Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Meet a "sovereign citizen"

A Tennessee TV station sent a news crew over to the home of 69-year-old Hollis Fay Summers, who "became a sovereign four years ago after attending a seminar in Alabama." Among other futile efforts, he has filed several billion-dollar lawsuits against officials of the bank which holds his mortgage, because they won't believe that his mortgage has been paid in full with funds from his "secret account."

WTF, you say. Well, in brief -- and the mention of the "seminar" he attended is the giveaway -- there are charlatans going around the country preaching a form of magic. The magic is contained in a mystical and completely bogus interpretation of legal language, and among other things, asserts that every American has a "secret account" of money being held for him by the federal government -- a government in which the profess not to believe, but that logical contradiction is only one among many -- and that you can access these funds if you know the magic. (For an explanation, see "Bill of Exchange" on the Southern Poverty Law Center's page on the so-called sovereigns, or see this page on the ADL's website for a full picture.)

The TV station's page with the story also includes links to a couple of Summers' mumbo-jumbo court filings, including the one where he asserts his sovereign status.

There are not that many of these people -- tens of thousands, at the most -- but they are responsible for gumming up local courts with these bogus filings, each of which must be addressed and declared frivolous. From the ADL's page:
The filing of frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials, law enforcement officers and private citizens, on the other hand, has remained a favorite harassing strategy. These paper "attacks" intimidate their targets and have the beneficial side effect of clogging up a court system that sovereign citizens believe is illegitimate. Frivolous liens became such a problem in the 1990s that a majority of states were forced to pass new laws to make filing them illegal, their removal easier, or both. Today, eager sovereign citizens can use the Internet to download a variety of boilerplate forms and documents to wield against the government. More adventurous types can matriculate at "schools" such as the Erwin Rommel School of Law; additionally, a number of activists, ranging from David Wynn Miller to The Aware Group, hold seminars around the country to teach people -- for a price -- about the latest tactics and weapons.
(Undeterred, Summers has filed another document in which he attempts to redefine the word frivolous to mean "true and correct," the story says.)

And the thing to know is that these people are not crazy. They're just a bunch of losers who have various grievances and have been tricked into believing that this particular form of magic will somehow lead to the redressing of these grievances.

Some nice details in the story, including the arrival of a dumpster during the interview -- a dumpster being delivered by the bank which is about to evict Summers from his long-foreclosed house. And where will this old grampa go then? Some poor relative, no doubt. But what you should focus on is the people who led him to this pass, who profited from his ignorance and credulousness. Here's the SPLC's page on the leaders of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, many of whom are now serving sentences in federal prison.

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